Keywords: innovation, climate change, adaptation, Viliui Sakha, post-Soviet, Arctic indigenous peoples, indigenous culture, rural Russia, globalisation, modernity, agricultural infrastructure
Cows and kin: innovations and issues in post-Soviet indigenous communities
In the wake of communism's fall, the majority of rural Russia's inhabitants were left without the state farm agricultural infrastructure that fed and employed them. Most adapted by innovating to create new forms that combined pre-Soviet subsistence practices with contemporary modes. This paper explores one group's innovation, 'cows-and-kin'. Viliui Sakha, the highest latitude horse and cattle breeders in contemporary times, inhabit western Sakha, northeastern Siberia, Russia. Their cows-and-kin innovation is based on household-level cow keeping with interdependence of kin households. In addition to describing this post-soviet community-level innovation, this paper also explores relevant issues about the capacity for continued innovation such as: (1) what is the future of the cows-and-kin innovation, considering that many youth are out-migrating from the rural villages? (2) how is the cows-and-kin innovation affected by the forces of globalisation and modernity? and lastly (3) how can the cows-and-kin innovation face the challenges posed by rapid climate change?